Posted on: January 14, 2015
Flu season is upon us. Therefore, it is important to understand what you can do to prevent getting the flu. Simple steps include frequent hand-washing, keeping your hands away from your mouth and face, and getting a flu vaccination.
Annual outbreaks of seasonal flu usually occur during the fall through early spring, and in a typical year, approximately 5 to 20 percent of the population gets the seasonal flu.
This year the peak of the flu season is expected in February. However, there are effective ways to avoid the flu.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 43 states are reporting widespread flu outbreaks, including New York State. Across the state, including Westchester County and New York City, nearly 4,000 cases of the flu have been confirmed.
“The flu is reaching epidemic levels across the country and here in Westchester,” said Dr. Debra Spicehandler, the co-chief of infectious disease at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, NY. “Having taken the vaccine makes the severity of the illness less.”
The United States experiences epidemics of seasonal flu each year, and right now all of CDC’s influenza surveillance systems are showing elevated activity. Influenza-like-illness (ILI) has been over baseline for the past several weeks, virological surveillance shows a lot of flu is circulating, and the hospitalization surveillance system shows increasing hospitalizations rates, including Northern Westchester Hospital.
Compounding the swift spreading of the virus is an inefficient flu vaccine, which doctors said did not include the current strain of influenza.
Protecting Against Influenza (Flu)
This information, as well as other facts and figures about seasonal flu, can be found at the CDC website “FluView” located at: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/
Although this year’s vaccine doesn’t include the current flu strain, generally speaking, the most effective way of avoiding the flu is to get a vaccine prior to the start of flu season. Other precautions you can take are keeping your hands away from your face and frequently washing your hands.
The germs causing influenza are spread up to three feet when someone who has the flu coughs or sneezes. You can even spread flu germs when you speak. If you handle an item that germs have landed on and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth, the flu virus can easily get inside you. Wash your hands often to get rid of flu germs.
Since you can’t wash your hands all the time, make a habit of not touching your face. Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth to prevent germs from entering your body.
When washing hands, be sure to use soap and warm water and rub hands vigorously for 20 seconds to build up a good lather. Dry your hands using a paper towel or air dry. When possible use the paper towel to turn off the faucet. If soap is not available use an alcohol-based sanitizer to clean your hands.
Your home also could be infected by flu germs. To disinfect your home, you need to bump up your cleaning ritual to guarantee the destruction of all flu germs. Mix a quarter club of bleach into a gallon of hot water and sanitize high traffic or touch areas like counter tops, light switches, handles, telephones, etc.
The flu symptoms, including: headache, chills and fever, cough or sore throat and body aches. A cold has similar symptoms but they come on gradually. Flu usually hits all at once. Fever and severe body aches are common. Call your health care provider if you think you or someone in your family has the flu. Information on treating many symptoms can be given over the phone. If you think you have the flu, stay home, unless you need medical care. In that case, wear a surgical or procedure mask to avoid spreading germs.
Find other NWH Blog posts on the flu here: http://nwhc.net/blog/?s=flu
Sometimes these simple preventative steps aren’t enough. Scroll down for links to helpful information from the Centers for Disease Control, such as:
- Identifying the differences between the flu and a cold
- Caring for those who become ill
- Facts about the 2014-2015 flu season.
Key Facts about Influenza (Flu) & Flu Vaccine
What You Should Know for the 2014-2015 Influenza Season
Cold Versus Flu
Advice for Caregivers of Young Children
The Flu: A guide for parents
Handwashing: Clean Hands Save Lives